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DU Presidents through the years

“Make sure that the fact that you’re  here on earth matters, that something meaningful is better because you were here,” President of Drake University David Maxwell said, offering advice to his students.

Maxwell is the 12th president of Drake and was inaugurated on May 15, 1999. Maxwell was born in New York City and grew up in Great Neck on the North Shore of Long Island. He went to Grinnell for the first two years of his undergraduate studies. He transferred to Princeton for his junior year but was not fond of the school and happily transferred back to Grinnell for his senior year. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees from Brown University in Slavic languages and literatures.

When Maxwell was 17, he went on a seven-week tour of the USSR with the Benny Goodman Band. Maxwell’s father was recruited to play first trumpet on the tour, and he went along as the band boy.

“It was probably the biggest single experience that affected my life,” Maxwell said. “It catalyzed my interest in international relations and in Russia.”

Maxwell went to college to major in Russian area studies with the goal of becoming a diplomat and helping to end the Cold War. During his senior year at Grinnell, he realized that he loved the literature and wanted to pursue a career in academics.

During college, Maxwell played guitar in a rock band, played baseball and intramural football and was an officer of the International Relations Society.

“During college, I learned how to learn,” Maxwell said. “I learned that I’ll never, ever know enough, but that striving to learn more is fun.”

After teaching Russian literature and language at Tufts University and eventually serving as the dean of undergraduate studies at Tufts, Maxwell was asked to be president of Whitman College in Washington state. He was then recruited to become director of the National Foreign Language Center in Washington D.C. After six years in this position, he was nominated for the Drake presidency.

“I decided that we were right for each other, and I think we still are,” Maxwell said, referring to Drake.

Before Maxwell became president of Drake, Robert D. Ray, ann honorary doctorate recipient, was president in 1998. Prior to Ray’s presidency, he received his bachelor’s degree in business from Drake in 1952 and his law degree in 1954. He went on to serve as the 38th governor of Iowa from Jan. 16, 1969 to Jan. 14, 1983 before serving as Drake’s president.

Michael Ferrari was president of Drake from 1985 to 1998. Ferrari received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in sociology and a doctorate in business administration from Michigan State University. During Ferrari’s time at Drake, the William C. Knapp Center for recreation, sports and convocations and the Tennis Center opened in fall 1992. The Dwight D. Opperman Hall and Law Library opened the following spring, and the new Pharmacy and Science Hall was established in fall 1993.

After leaving Drake, he served as chancellor of Texas Christian University until 2003. He subsequently founded Ferrari & Associates, which offers consulting services to higher educational institutions.

Prior to Ferrari’s presidency was Wilbur C. Miller who served as president of Drake from 1972 to 1985. Under Miller, the Harmon Fine Arts Center opened in the fall of 1972 and Olmsted Center opened in 1974. In 1973, the Olin Foundation Inc. provided a $3.3 million grant to build Olin Hall of Biological Science, which opened in 1975.

Before Miller was Paul Frederick Sharp, an honorary doctorate recipient who served as president from 1966 to 1971. Under Sharp’s presidency, library resources increased by more than 50 percent. The size and quality of the faculty increased and new undergraduate and graduate programs were started.

Henry Gadd Harmon was given the task of Drake’s president during World War II and served his term from 1941 to 1964. During this time, new policies managing selection and admission of students were established.

Daniel Walter Morehouse was Drake’s president from 1923 to 1941. Morehouse completed his undergraduate studies at Drake before proceeding to the University of Chicago for his graduate studies. While in Chicago, he discovered the eponymous comet on Sept. 1, 1908 at the Yerkes Observatory while completing his graduate work. After earning his doctorate degree from the University of California, Morehouse returned to Drake in 1914 as an astronomy professor.

Arthur Holmes served as Drake’s president from 1918 to 1923, during post World War I. He established a psychological clinic at Drake.
Hill McClelland Bell, an honorary doctorate recipient who was a Drake graduate, served as Drake’s president from 1903 to 1918. Bell led Drake through a major building program as Cole Hall, Memorial Hall and Carnegie Hall were built. Bell’s presidency also marked Drake’s beginning with the bulldog. The Drake teams, which had been called Ducklings, Drakes, Ganders and even Tigers, finally became the Drake Bulldogs.

William Bayard Craig, an honorary doctorate recipient, was Drake’s chancellor from 1897 to 1902. Craig served as a minister at a church in Iowa.
Barton O. Aylesworth, an honorary doctorate recipient, was Drake’s chancellor from 1894 to 1897. Aylesworth attended Eureka College and served as a parish pastor for nine years prior to his arrival at Drake. After leaving Drake, he was appointed president of the Colorado Agricultural University in 1899, now known as Colorado State University.

Drake’s first president was George Thomas Carpenter, an honorary doctorate recipient who served as president from 1881 to 1882. The Disciples of Christ in Iowa were experiencing financial hardships and were forced to move their established Oskaloosa College, the first Christian college founded in Iowa, to a new location. In 1881, Carpenter journeyed to Des Moines with a $20,000 pledge from Gen. Francis Marion Drake of Centerville, Iowa to begin the institution. In appreciation, the university’s trustees named the school after Drake, a Civil War general, former Iowa governor, banker, railroad builder and attorney.


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